Welcome to The Democracy Dispatch, a new monthly newsletter from Democrats Abroad Italy! Our goal is to keep you informed and energized, making it simple and satisfying to participate in American democracy.
Here you will find not just the latest political news and events, but also useful information about voting from abroad and getting involved in the issues you care about. Our Community Spotlights will shine a light on Americans doing interesting and original things in Italy. And since we’re lucky enough to live in one of the world’s culinary capitals, our monthly “Recipe for Democracy” series will feature cherished recipes from throughout the bel paese.
This month, we look at the importance of the 2022 midterm elections for holding accountable the architects of the January 6 attack on the Capitol; meet an American who has done the seemingly impossible — made Italians fall in love with American food; and learn the secret to making authentic traditional pesto using modern appliances.
If you have story ideas, questions or just want to drop us a message to say hi, our virtual doors are always open. We’re also looking for contributors to help write future editions of the newsletter. Email [email protected] to get involved — and we hope you enjoy your first Democracy Dispatch!
All the best,
The Democracy Dispatch
Table of Contents:
- Why the 2022 midterms matter: five political stories highlight five reasons every vote will count
- Texas voters! Request your ballot TODAY
- Fantastic events in February
- Spotlight on Laurel Evans
- Recipe for Democracy: Traditional pesto sauce
- Save the Date: DAI Annual General Meeting 2022
FIVE POLITICAL STORIES, FIVE REASONS TO VOTE IN THE MIDTERMS
We’re kicking off the Democracy Dispatch with five recent political stories that shine a light on five reasons why your vote matters in the 2022 midterm elections. Keep reading to learn how your vote can:
- Guarantee fair political districts in future elections
- Hold the Jan. 6 Capitol rioters accountable
- Keep Trump from returning to office in 2024
- Enact the world’s most ambitious climate change policy
- Ensure federal judges represent the American people
- State courts strike down unfair districting maps
North Carolina’s Supreme Court struck down the state’s current congressional district map, saying it unfairly benefitted Republican lawmakers. Under the previous plan, even if Democratic candidates received a majority of statewide votes, Republicans could control 11 of the state’s 14 districts. (The technical term for drawing districts in a way that gives one party an unfair advantage is “partisan gerrymandering.”)
Democrats had challenged the map as part of a nationwide legal effort to ensure Democratic votes have equal weight. So far the strategy seems to be paying off, as similar plans were also struck down in Ohio and Alabama. In the coming weeks, judges will also decide on the validity of maps that benefit Republicans in Wisconsin, Louisiana and Pennsylvania. Voters of color are often disproportionately impacted by the unfair districting.
Senate Democrats tried to end partisan gerrymandering with the Freedom to Vote Act, but Republicans used the filibuster to kill the legislation. If the Democrats pick up more Senate seats in the 2022 midterms, they could modify the filibuster rules and pass voting rights legislation, strengthening democracy both at home and abroad.
VOTE 2022: To guarantee fair political districts in future elections.
- The GOP says January 6 Capitol attack was “legitimate”
The Republican Party has finally stated its official position on the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, in which several thousand of then-President Donald Trump’s supporters tried to violently overturn the 2020 election results. The rioters, who vandalized lawmakers’ offices as they searched for members of Congress to attack, were “engaged in legitimate political discourse,” the Republican National Committee said. Five people died during the attack, including a Capitol police officer who was beaten with a fire hydrant, while four Capitol police officers who responded later died by suicide.
The GOP’s remarks came during a vote to censure the only two congressional Republicans who agreed to participate in hearings about the incident, Reps. Liz Cheney (WY) and Adam Kinzinger (IL). By joining four Democrats in investigating the events of that day, the representatives are “persecuting ordinary citizens,” the Republican Party said.
The committee, which is chaired by Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MI), has interviewed more than 475 witnesses and issued 100 subpoenas to hold the organizers accountable. More than 30 rioters have been charged with conspiracy for allegedly planning the attack.
VOTE 2022: To hold the January 6 attackers accountable.
- Trump promises to pardon Jan. 6 attackers if re-elected
Former Pres. Donald Trump, who recently admitted that his goal on Jan. 6 was to subvert the 2020 election results, has promised to pardon the 30 indicted rioters if re-elected in 2024.
He has also endorsed nearly 40 GOP candidates for the 2022 midterms. If his candidates win, he will almost certainly try to mount a comeback in the next presidential election, according to Republican operatives.
VOTE 2022: To keep Trump out of the White House for good.
- Biden administration ramps up consumer, environmental protections
With Senate Republicans refusing to negotiate on Pres. Joe Biden’s Build Back Better agenda, the administration has turned to administrative agencies to reinforce environmental and consumer protections.
The $2.2 trillion Build Back Better package would have allocated $555 billion to clean energy and climate change provisions, banned offshore drilling, and strengthened Arctic nature preserves. The measure passed the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives in November, but failed in the Senate, where Republicans refused to consider the bill.
In the meantime, federal regulators are addressing climate change and workplace diversity, increasing transparency on Wall Street, and adopting rules to reduce credit card and banking fees. The Environmental Protection Agency is tightening rules about pollution from power plants, while financial regulators are taking steps to eventually limit access to credit for oil and gas companies.
Still, a congressional response would have a far greater reach. If the Democrats hold the House and pick up Senate seats in the 2022 midterms, the Build Back Better legislation could be re-introduced.
VOTE 2022: To pass the world’s most ambitious climate change policy.
- Biden appoints most diverse federal judges in history
President Joe Biden has appointed federal judges at a record pace — and in doing so he’s built the most diverse bench in history, according to legal analysts. Since taking office in January 2021 Biden has appointed 42 news judges, the most for a first-year president since Ronald Reagan. Many of the judges are women and people of color. They include the first LGBTQ+ woman to sit on a federal appeals court and the first Muslim-American to serve as a federal judge. (In January, Biden also nominated the first Muslim-American woman to the bench, though her confirmation is still pending.)
Former Pres. Donald Trump famously appointed almost exclusively white men, a record number of whom were rated as “unqualified” for the federal judiciary by the American Bar Association. Those who were qualified mostly came from Big Law and corporate backgrounds. Many of Biden’s picks have experience as public defenders or civil rights attorneys, representing organizations such as the NAACP and ACLU.
Qualified, impartial federal judges are crucial for upholding legislation that benefits everyday Americans. Diversity in the legal field — in terms of not just race and gender, but also career experience — ensures fair outcomes, according to experts. If Republicans control Congress, they can block these appointments and leave the seats vacant until a Republican president takes power. And if that Republican is Trump, we can expect more unqualified, unrepresentative judges.
VOTE 2022: To ensure our federal judiciary is well-qualified and represents the American people.
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REMEMBER: Even if you voted from abroad in the last election, many states require you to request a new federal ballot every year! Visit https://www.votefromabroad.org/ to request your ballot today. And if you’d like to help phonebank, register new voters, or write postcards, email [email protected].
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VOTE FROM ABROAD — TEXAS EDITION!
Whether you’ve lived in Italy for 5 months or 50 years, if your last residence in the U.S. was in Texas, congratulations! You’re a Texas voter from abroad. That means you get a say in some of the most important, competitive races in the country. It also means your state has the earliest vote-from-abroad registration date in the country.
To vote in any Texas races in 2022, you need to request your federal overseas ballot by TODAY, February 9. The good news is that you can request your ballot in just 10 minutes by visiting https://www.votefromabroad.org/. Or, if you want some personal help requesting your ballot, email [email protected]. We will walk you through it, step by step.
It will be the best 10 minutes you spend all day. Especially if you pair your voter registration with your morning cappuccino — or your evening glass of wine!
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FEBRUARY’S CAN’T-MISS EVENTS
February's Recipe for Democracy
February 1 at 7pm CET (Italy time)
with Chef Laurel Evans, who will teach us how to make pesto
Exercise your rights
February 14-April 14
An online, low impact exercise class
DA Switzerland's midterms event
February 17 at 7pm CET (Zurich time)
NATIONAL SALON: An optimistic view on the 2022 Midterms with Richard Greene, The Civics Dean
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Save the dates:
March's Recipe for Democracy
March 1 at 7pm CET
with Chris McNealy, former NBA Basketball Star and B&B owner
DA Italy's 2022 AGM
March 13 at 5pm CET
Our virtual Annual General Meeting. Everyone is invited! Agenda and speakers to come.
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COMMUNITY SPOTLIGHT: TEXAN LAUREL EVANS
Texas-born Laurel Evans had been working for about a month as a graphic designer for Vogue Italia, designing page layouts for the legendary Franca Sozzani, when she had a realization: she had one of the least glamorous positions in a very glamorous profession. The work had quickly gotten repetitive, so she turned to her hobbies for fulfillment, and found herself spending more and more time in the kitchen learning to cook like her Ligurian partner’s friends and family.
At first Evans’ goal was to stamp out any trace of her American culinary heritage, but after a couple of years, she started missing recipes from home. She began hosting dinner parties for her Italian friends and preparing American food, though she admits their refined palettes intimidated her at first.
“Instead of turning up their noses, they loved it,” she says. “They said, ‘Oh this is that thing I saw on The Simpsons!’”
People started asking for recipes, so she started her popular blog — Un’Americana in Cucina — in 2009. Soon after, she got her first book deal to publish an Italian-language cookbook about American food. That first book was so successful that it led to three more cookbooks, about tex mex, desserts and muffins. Her husband took all the photos and helped her perfect the Italian prose.
In the meantime, she was perfecting her local cooking skills. For years, Evans thought she was just learning to cook Italian food, but eventually she realized she was learning to prepare cherished, regional traditions from Liguria. She decided to pitch her first English-language cooking book on Ligurian food to introduce Americans to her favorite “under-appreciated” culinary region. That book, Liguria The Cookbook: Recipes from the Italian Riviera, was released in September. It received a shout-out in the New York Times.
Although she doesn’t offer virtual cooking lessons — yet — Evans says she loves teaching.
“That’s why I do the cookbooks, the blog, social media,” she says. “There’s nothing more satisfying to me than when someone writes and says the recipe worked, everything was perfect.”
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Know an American in Italy with an interesting story, a knack for bringing people together, or simply a big heart (including yourself)! Send us spotlight suggestions at [email protected].
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RECIPE FOR DEMOCRACY
When Laurel Evans was writing Liguria The Cookbook, she knew the pesto recipe would be one of the most important in the book. “Ligurians agree pesto is much better when made with mortar and pestle,” she says. “They also agree almost no one makes it that way anymore.” Instead, they make it in a food processor. The problem is that the food processor’s metal blades heat and oxidize the delicate basil, which compromises the taste. “Heat is the enemy,” Laurel says. For this recipe, she spoke to a friend and World Pesto Championship finalist, who shared her tips for keeping the mixture from overheating. The result: pesto perfection, even when made in a food processor.
- 3 cups tightly packed, fresh small basil leaves, stems removed
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large clove of garlic, halved (inner green germ removed)
- ¼ cup pine nuts
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup, packed, finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (aged 24 months)
- 1/3 cup, packed, finely grated Fiore Sardo pecorino
- Gently wash the basil in a tub of cold water, being careful not to smash it. Remove and spread out on a kitchen towel to air dry.
- Refrigerate the olive oil for at least 30 minutes before preparing the pesto.
- Chill the bowl and blades of a food processor in the freezer for 15 minutes.
- Combine the garlic, pine nuts, salt and 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the bowl of the food processor; blend until finely minced.
- Add the basil and 2 more tablespoons of olive oil; blend until the basil is finely chopped.
- Add the grated cheeses and two more tablespoons of oil; blend until the mixture is well combined and begins to look creamy.
- Transfer to a bowl and drizzle in the remaining oil, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until creamy and well combined.
- Add more oil as needed to reach desired consistency; salt to taste.
- Serve over pasta of your choice. Pro tip: Use a few spoonfuls of the pasta water to thin the pesto before dressing the pasta.
If not serving immediately, scoop the pesto into a container and cover with a layer of olive oil to prevent oxidation. Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days or freeze for up to 3 months.
Get a copy of Liguria: The Cookbook here.